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date: 18 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

What is a thing? It is an apparently simple question to which few philosophers or social scientists have devoted any serious attention. This chapter attempts to explain this neglect, and then to develop a way of thinking about the question by distinguishing things, and the concept ‘thing’, from objects and entities with which they are often conflated. This more refined and adequate conception of the thing is then deployed in order to help answer two related questions: ‘Why do things matter? What are the grounds of our attachment to them, and of our obligations towards them?’ It is argued that an endemic failure within philosophy and social science to reflect on what constitutes the thinghood of things makes it harder than it need be to answer questions concerning their value and why they matter to us.

Keywords: thing, object, entity, nature, culture, property, goods, function, attachment, belonging

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